Dog-lovers can rent a pooch by the hour with Kennington local Dawn Bartlett’s new therapy company Cuddlemutts.

Cuddlemutts provide home or office visits from canine companions, which has proven as a form of therapy that can help combat depression and loneliness, particularly in the elderly and those managing mental wellbeing.

“Touching and being near animals lowers blood pressure, boosts dopamine [the “feel good” brain chemical] serotonin, and Oxytocin,” Dawn told the Weekender. “It lowers stress. Particularly the action of stroking a dog has been shown to have positive effects for people.”

While volunteering at Blue Cross Animal Hospital, Dawn learned how dogs can help anxiety, depression, loneliness and improve physical health. “We offer dog companionship and also promote wellbeing in the workplace with visits from our dogs,” she said.

Dawn herself is part of the service, as she brings the dog and offers companionship to the people she visits. “I think much of the time, people, whatever they are struggling with, just want to be listened to,” she said. “I am a good listener with first rate people skills and compassion and empathy, focusing on the need for good self care for wellbeing.”

“I have also been a carer much of my life to my family and pop stars!” the PR and marketing consultant said.

“There are plenty of practical reasons people can’t keep dogs in London,” she continued. This is a way to borrow some of the benefits. “You can take the dogs for a walk and get some exercise, I can bring them into businesses, which has proven to boost productivity, they’re a mood elevator, and benefit your overall health and wellbeing.”

The pooches Kea: a very social half pug, half Shi Tzu, and Ralph: a long haired Dachshund, are Dawn’s neighbours in Kennington where she’s lived her whole life. “They’re small and not intimidating and they give back tenfold,” she said.

The business idea stemmed from Dawn’s dog-walking and dog-sitting business, which she runs alongside her marketing and PR company. For people who aren’t allowed to keep animals in their flats, or don’t want to commit to the responsibility of a full-time pet, Cuddlemutts is a good compromise.  “Parents can rent a dog for an hour for their children,” Dawn said.

The eventual goal is to create a Cuddlemutts café. In the meantime, Dawn is seeking funding to be able to deliver Cuddlemutts services to people in need.

Prices start from £40 for a one-hour visit for individuals and children’s parties. Prices are negotiable for larger groups and corporate visits. For more information visit: www.cuddlemutts.co.uk